What's the best way to approach a temp service for work?
January 19, 2004 11:16 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to approach a temp service? Walk in? Call? How to dress? etc.
posted by drezdn to Work & Money (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say always call first. In bigger cities you'll need an appointment, plus that way you'll be sure to have some dedicated time spent toward finding you a job.

When you go in for the appointment, dress as if you were dressing for an interview in whatever field you're looking to get hired.
posted by boomchicka at 11:35 AM on January 19, 2004

Boomchicka's right - and treat it as if it were a regular interview. Be professional and positive, and try to have some good answers worked out - what you'd prefer to do, any skills you may have, what you think you could offer a company they might place you with. For most temp companies, dependability is a huge issue, because they don't want to look like jerks if you don't show up. So stress how you never missed work at your last job, or how you always went to class in college, or about how you won "Best attendance" in 5th grade.
posted by pomegranate at 11:42 AM on January 19, 2004

Be aware they are going to have you take a typing test, as well as test you on any applications (Word, Excel, etc) you claim to be proficient in.
posted by xammerboy at 11:49 AM on January 19, 2004

I got four out of the six 'permanent' jobs in my adult life through temporary agencies (all in accounting, all more than 10 year ago). boomchicka's advice is very solid. If you see something in one of their ads (and temp agencies advertise a lot) that seems to fit you, use the number in the ad when you call ahead. You'll get a placement person who's in a hurry to fill the job and will probably get you in faster. Definitely dress as if you're going to an interview, and if your career skills can be quantified in any way, be ready to get tested. If you don't get the advertised gig, don't worry. They'll always consider you for something else they consider appropriate.

One more thing: be sure going in whether you do or don't want a "temp-to-perm" assignment, which is basically a thirteen-week audition/probation at temp wages (if you're lucky and the employer loves you, it might become permanent in less, but in general, the temp fees pay down the employer's permanent placement fee, so most will be in no hurry).
posted by wendell at 11:54 AM on January 19, 2004

Indeed, call first for an appointment. Treat it like a regular job interview/get-to-know-you session. The more professional you are, the better your chances at getting placed quickly. Bring several copies (maybe five or so) of your resume, so you can offer them for their files.
posted by Vidiot at 12:20 PM on January 19, 2004

Additionally -- if you are skilled with computers or really good at the tests they toss at you -- be aware that the temp company office staff may not be, and try to be gracious and good-natured. A good part of the temp-company interview process is them getting a feel for you, so even if they give you an MS Excel test and tell you that you got a few questions "wrong" because you used keyboard shortcuts instead of the preferred method [as happened to me] remember that basically all you need to do is qualify at the temp interview, what's most important is getting sent on assignments and continuing to be sent on assignments. To that end, here's a little more advice:

- Get money straightened out in advance, try to think what is the lowest amount per hour you will work for and try to stay with that as a minimum. Your agency will tell you if you're being unreasonable, but they also will not call you for lowball jobs.
- With that in mind, they will say they will call you and often they will not. Especially when you are new, a phone call every morning or so "just to check in" is not normally a problem [unless they specifically say it is] and is often a way to appear eager, friendly and okay on the phones.
- Overstate your qualifications as far as office skills go, just a touch. If you are good at figuring out software and are not being asked to write code, feel free to say you know Filemaker, even if you have only passing aquaintance with it. My experience temping in Seattle showed that most often offices were looking for someone to replace a secretary or admin staffer on maternity leave and had only the most passing idea of what she did. They had a whole list of things they thought she did, but really you'd be answering phones, typing, working with spreadsheets and greeting people. This translated to the temp agency as "three years experience working with spreadsheets" Of course, if you really do need high tech spreadsheet experience, you're on your own but I felt that estimating my abilities upward a bit didn't hurt.
posted by jessamyn at 12:36 PM on January 19, 2004 [1 favorite]

My sister manages a branch office of Manpower and has been in the temporary world for more than a decade. For another forum I frequent, I asked her for her tips for people seeking work through agencies. With permission, this is a rehash of her tips for potential temps:

- 75-80% of those who make appointments fail to show up. Of the remaining 20-25% a stunning number reschedule. This does not bode well. Set your appointment and show up, on time and ready to do what is needed of you.

- If you come in and say "I only want to work at banks." when your experience or skillset could work just as well in other industries, you're not going to make a great impression. If you say "I can only work at places that are accessible with public transportation because I don't drive." or even "I've had bad experiences working at law firms, they're not a good fit for me so I'd rather avoid them." that's different and understandable and will be noted.

- Know what you want to do, and your limitations. If you say, loosey-goosey, that you'd prefer admin assistant jobs but you're okay with receptionist jobs that you don't really want, you're going to get called for receptionist jobs and you're going to seem uncooperative when you repeatedly turn down receptionist jobs. Also, be honest when you're asked whether or not you'll accept same day job offers. Repeatedly turning down same-day call outs when you've agreed to them will also get you an uncooperative label. Uncooperative temps are temps who aren't bothered with over the long haul because they end up being a wasted phone call. Along with this, be up front about your financial limitations, if there is a minimum dollar figure per hour that you'll accept, and what kinds of assignments you'll accept: very short term, long term and/or temp-to-perm.

- Being readily accessible. Give the agency your cell phone number and/or check your voicemail/machine as frequently as possible when you're between assignments. You will lose jobs if they have to wait around all day to hear back from you and a client is waiting to have a position filled.

- Be honest with the agency. If you're not available for a job, tell them why. If you feel like a job just isn't a good fit, explain your reasons. Let the agency work on your behalf as their employee instead of being at cross-purposes with you, and you'll both fare better in the long run.
posted by Dreama at 2:15 PM on January 19, 2004 [1 favorite]

Don't meet with one agency, like them, and stop meeting others. It is unlikely one agency will have enough work (at least in my experience, and I was a very good temp) for you, at least until they get to know you (and you mnay not like the work they give you).

Computer skills are very important, but if you're reasonably familiar with Word, PowerPoint and Excel, and can work fast, you'll blow away most of your temp-bosses. (Being fast was what really blew them away.)
posted by o2b at 4:05 PM on January 19, 2004 [1 favorite]

« Older Is there an Instant Messenging client for Windows...   |   Customizing GPS applications with ESRI? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.